Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sussex in September

Monday 21st.  September is probably my favourite month in Sussex.  Not necessarily for rarities, although there have been a few memorable ones over the years (Pallid Harrier at the Burgh perhaps the best?), but for numbers of common migrants. My best Sussex day ever was 21 September 1980, when there were 6 Tawny Pipits and an impressive supporting cast at Beachy Head including, for me, 250 Whinchats, 200 Wheatears, 6 Ring Ouzels, 7 Redstarts, 16 Spotted and 3 Pied Flycatchers.  This year I will not be matching that, spending most of the day in airports or aeroplanes.  Araripe Manakin, i'm on my way ...

Sunday 20th.  A very pleasant morning at Beachy with John and David Cooper.  There was an impressive hirundine passage in the first hour or so with an estimated 500 Swallows and 6000 House Martins, amongst which I saw 4 Sand Martins.  The sharper eyed amongst us (i.e. not me) picked up 2 Buzzards, a likely Honey Buzzard (heading straight out), Marsh Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl.  I also saw a Grey and 27 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Whinchats, 5 Wheatears, 8 Whitethroats, 27 Blackcaps, 17 Chiffchaffs, Willow Warbler, 2 Goldcrests, Raven and 47 Siskins.  We called in at the Cuckmere on the way home, me parking near Chyngton Farm and walking down.  The Grey Phalarope was showing very nicely.

Grey Phalarope at Foxhole, Cuckmere
always a nice bird to see, particularly when this close

Short-eared Owl high over Beachy
Siskin at Beachy.  Perhaps more than anything the number of Siskins along the coast has been a feature of this September

Saturday 19th.  Megan and I took a circular walk from High Trees up to Beeding Hill and Truleigh Hill.  It started a bit murky but soon cleared to give good views over the Weald and out to sea.  I saw a Buzzard, 100 Swallows, 30 House Martins, Yellow Wagtail, 4 Whinchats, 5 Stonechats, 17 Wheatears, 4 Chiffchaffs and 13 Corn Buntings.  An afternoon visit to the allotment was a welcome change to packing, where little progress was made. Should I take a 'scope? 

Thursday 17th. Megan and I walked around Mill Hill seeing a steady trickle of Swallows, 2 Whinchats, 2 Wheatears, 11 Whitethroats and 30 low flying Siskins heading east in two flocks.  Later I cycled to Worthing via the Adur (te tide being rather higher than anticipated) and Widewater, returning via Shoreham Fort. There was a steady easterly passage of Swallows (125) amongst which I picked out 2 Sand Martins.  A Greenshank was on Widewater, 24 Wheatears along the beach between Brooklands and the Fort, 8 Sandwich Terns offshore and a Kingfisher and 2 Rock Pipits at the Fort.

Wheatear near Mill Hill
Little Egret near New Salts Farm
Greenshank at Widewater
not always asleep
one of two Rock Pipits at Shoreham Fort

the other Rock Pipit

nothing about these two birds particularly suggests littoralis to me although  outside of breeding plumage it is usually not possible to tell.  I might expect littoralis to have a better supercilium  and whiter edges to the outer tail feathers.  Buff-bellied Pipit should usually, but not always, have pale lores, an unbroken eyering and distinct moustacial as well as buffier flanks.
Wednesday 16th.  Megan and I walked around a windswept Cissbury Ring but managed to dodge most of the showers.  Visibility to the west was excellent with the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth just about visible with the naked eye.  Beachy Head was just visible to the east but it was more murky.  Birds were keeping their heads down but I did see 3 Redstarts (one a smart male), Whinchat, Whitethroat and three groups of low flying Siskins (totalling 80) heading east.  In the afternoon I went to Sidlesham Ferry.  It was a very high tide and a good variety of waders were present although the Pectoral Sandpiper did not put in an appearance.  I saw the Grey Phalarope, 7 Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank, single Green and Common Sandpipers, 9 Avocets and 5 Mediteranean Gulls.  I continued on to Thorney Deeps arriving just as the heavens opened again.  Despite continual heavy rain I did see an Osprey.  It flew in with what looked like a fish and sat on a post next to the Great Deep to eat it.
Grey Phalarope (and Shelduck) on Sidlesham Ferry.  I'd never regarded phalaropes as being fat beofre ..

Osprey feeding on fish at Thorney Deeps.  In torrential rain and with lenses misting up

Tuesday 15th.  Herring Gull red A5HH was seen at the University.

Monday 14th.  Three Jays in Stanmer Park.

Sunday 13th.  An enjoyable morning covering most of Birling and Beachy Head, initially with David Cooper and Brenda Kay.  I saw a Wryneck (found by David), 4 Sand Martins, 900+ Swallows, no House Martins(!), 15 Yellow and 15 Pied Wagtails, Redstart, 27 Stonechats, 4 Whinchats, 4 Wheatears, Reed Warbler, 23 Whitethroats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, 53 Blackcaps, 33 Chiffchaffs, single Willow Warbler, Firecrest and Goldcrest, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, Raven , 105 Siskins flying east, 3 Corn Buntings and 3 Yellowhammers.  It was my best visit this autumn, although I've not that many to choose from, and I would have stayed longer had it not been for family commitments.  The sacrifices one makes ...


docile sheep make a good lookout perch for Jackdaws
a rather striking 'yellow-faced' Pied Wagtail
juvenile Robin
Spotted Flycatcher in Shooter's Bottom

Stonechat at Beachy

Stonechat and Wryneck east of Belle Tout

pretending to be a Bee-eater

in the open, but with head turned away 
Saturday 12th.  I believed the forecast of rain to mid-morning and did not go over to Beachy, missing seeing Martyn Kenefick (hopefully next time Martyn). I visited the Adur at high and low tide seeing a Curlew, 6 Sandwich Terns and 2 Sand Martins.

Thursday 10th.  Cycling to Worthing to get some dollars from the Coin Shop I saw Dave Sadler at Widewater and while talking to him we saw a Kingfisher, my first of the autumn. Also there were 6 Sandwich Terns on buoys offshore and a Sand Martin and 50 Swallows flew east.

Wednesday 9th.  Megan and I walked from Crowlink to Belle Tout and back, one of our favourite walks.  It was a nice clear sunny day, great for walking but not ideal for birds.  I saw 3 Sand Martins, 200 Swallows, 120 House Martins, 2 Rock Pipits, 6 Yellow Wagtails, 14 Stonechats, 2 Whinchats, 12 Wheatears, Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Whitethroat, 12 Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, 2 Raven and 19 Siskins flying north.  Almost as exciting as the birds were the boats passing, the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry of which we now had an interest and small elements of the Dutch Navy.

Newhaven-Dieppe Ferry passing Seaford Head.  Côte d'Albâtre, sister ship to the Seven Sisters we had been on a few days before.
one of two Dutch Landing Craft passing Birling Gap
it was hotly pursued by another
and two RIBs, presumably also Dutch
Ravens on the cliff edge near Baily's Hill

Whinchat at Birling
Herring Gull AU9T on the Adur.  The fifth time I've seen it on the Adur since March 2013.  It was ringed at Rainham as a first calendar year in 2011
Monday 7th.  I saw a Peregrine on Southwick Power Station chimney on my cycle to work while regular Herring Gull A4AH was seen at the University when I was unchaining my bike to come home.

Sunday 6th.  A couple of hours around Birling with John and David Cooper, Brenda Kay and John King before I cracked and headed to Little Common for the Black Stork.  Birling had been nice with a reasonable selection of common migrants.  I saw Swift, 4 Sand Martins, 30 Swallows, 120 House Martins, 19 Yellow and 4 Grey Wagtails, 2 Whinchats, 12 Stonechats, Wheatear, Reed Warbler, 8 Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 7 Willow Warblers and 130 Siskins flying west.  At Little Common Tony Cook informed me that the Black Stork had flown over 20 minutes before I arrived, one of its earliest appearances and not what I wanted to hear.  Fortunately I only had to wait 40 minutes for it to reappear.  It looked quite impressive circling higher and higher before drifting off west, and clearly not the bird that had been seen in gardens!  It was nice to catch up with two Norfolk residents, recently of Sussex.  Both Nigel Redman and Mick Davis were enjoying being Norfolk residents, and seeing more in a 

 Later Megan and I walked around the Adur seeing little.

Black Stork high over Little Common
Megan on the Old Toll Bridge

Sky Lark on the west-side footpath